I often claim that studying kink is a neverending process, and that I keep learning new things about it despite having been researching and practicing it for over thirty years now – and I often receive politely bemused smirks in response. «Everything there is to know is out there on Facebook and tube sites», they struggle not to reply, «and if you really are a pervy geek you can always go to munches and parties where other obsessed guys like you show off their tricks for you to later mimic in the bedroom. Making such a big deal out of it is just self-important». In fact, some people just enjoy blurting this out – especially online.
Now, I hold a well-documented grudge against cyber-kinksters, but that kind of closed-mindedness may not even be entirely their fault. After all, if your only exposure to BDSM culture is through the hellishly shallow social network forums – even specialized ones like Fetlife – you may be forgiven for thinking that the discourse about kink is just a soul-crushing bore reserved to OCD-types, and pretty impolite to boot.
Case in point: if you spend any significant time with the online/much “community”, you are bound to stumble on the discussion about consent. Which, in these tumultuous #MeToo times, is of course an extremely important subject in general, and even more vital in an environment where people literally put their lives and limbs in the hands of self-described sadists.
Unfortunately, though, the conversation usually goes like this: «Consent is very important, therefore negotiation and safewords…»
Then someone interrupts: «Yeah! Contracts! Because those bitches will claim breach of consent and ruin you!»
«Shut up, you rapist! The scene is full of evil predators and nobody does anything! It’s a conspiracy!»
And somebody else pitches in: «I know of a rapist but I won’t name them!»; «And I know of a victim but I won’t either!»
And this is where the shitstorm gets so agitated that no sensible conversation can be held anymore. Trolls and haters keep it alive for a while, then it ends – until the next time, about two weeks later. Once you witness this cycle a few times, you are half-excused for believing that the topic can be simply summarized as ‘make sure to ask for consent and keep your fingers crossed anyway’. No need to elaborate.
Reality, however, is rather different. Everywhere in the world there are activists, researchers and actual experts who work – usually well away from those toxic forums – to keep the discourse about kink ongoing and to make progress about it. I was reminded of the astronomic distance between the two groups just yesterday, while reviewing the video from a round table… you guessed it: about consent.
The recording was from the MsDs Conference, a splendid three-days event that in 2017 produced 57 hours of high-quality lectures and discussions featuring true authorities from all over the world. It was interesting, fun and informal, as you can see from the screenshot in the article header. I regret not being allowed to post the whole video, especially since the official event archives are now closed with no announcement about any future reopening.
If I could, you’d be able to listen in to what actual kinksters worry about when they discuss “boring” subjects. More specifically:
- The legislative differences between various countries about the legal definition of consent and ability to consent;
- How to work with legislators to introduce specific clauses to protect BDSM practicioners from the repercussions meant for non-kinky interactions;
- The responsibility of an enabling – or non-obstructing – third party if a minor (but of legal age for consenting to sex) is reported to authorities as involved in consensual domination and submission erotic games;
- The role of unrelated permanent or temporary mental disorders in the ability of managing consenting to kink, and which governing body should decide on that matter;
- The validity of consent when some information (for example about a health condition or special needs) is withheld or simply forgotten in good faith;
- The need to distinguish and educate about the difference between consent abuse and misunderstanding – and how to define what constitutes them;
- The linguistic pros and cons of using the idiom ‘consent incident’ by default, in opposition to ‘breach of consent’;
- The management of possible, probable and definite consent violators in public spaces. Who decides the terms of the ban, the legal repercussions, and the matter of recording the violation;
- The effect and influence of subspace in the ability to give informed consent, and how to read it during a play session;
- The legal status and validity of consent in case of occasional or frequent sleep sex;
- The dangers of renegotiating the terms of consent during a play session, under the influence of arousal;
- The ex-post revocation of consent, and its real-world implications for the dominant partner;
- How to ensure that the dominant partner has correctly understood your consent;
- How much information constitutes informed consent;
- The differences between negotiating a session and a relationship, and the lack of resources for the latter;
- The evolution of consent in relation to the inevitable changes within a long-time relationship, including age, health, accidents and more;
- Negotiating consent and exit strategies in case of fundamental personal differences arising in a structured long-time master-slave relationship;
- The drama-based online polarization of a very nuanced matter and its effects.
That’s quite a mouthful for one single discussion, isn’t it? And keep in mind that I was just listing from memory, so I probably left something out.
Of one thing I am sure, though: not only me, but every participant learned something from that round table, no matter how their experience was. Now tell that to the Facebook self-styled gurus!
I hope this example among countless helped giving you a more realistic understanding of what “knowing about kink” actually means, but besides my rant there is a great notion to bring back home. Anyone can become a true extreme eroticism expert if they put serious study into it. The key is just to quit circle-wanking on self-serving online circles, read lots of good books on the subject, and eventually connect with actual experts. I promise it will be a whole different game for you, and that you will enjoy it immensely.